Aerospace Engineering (EAS)
The Discipline and the Major
Aerospace engineering is the design, fabrication, testing, and improving of flight vehicles and systems to solve real-world problems and meet societal needs. Aerospace systems are operated in unforgiving environments that demand rigorous engineering standards and state-of-the-art materials, analysis, and design tools. The major has two tracks: Aeronautics and Astronautics. Aeronautics emphasizes vehicles and systems (manned and unmanned, fixed-wing and rotary-wing) that remain within the atmosphere. Astronautics emphasizes vehicles and systems (manned and unmanned) that operate outside the atmosphere, as well as the launch vehicles that get them into space. Two courses in the 3/C year introduce students to the fundamentals of both tracks. Students then choose one track and take fundamental and specialized courses in topics such as aerodynamics, orbital mechanics, space environment, propulsion, structural design, stability and control, and vehicle design.
Both tracks are supported by modern laboratory facilities. Students conduct experiments in research-quality wind tunnels with air speeds ranging from subsonic to supersonic. A unique rotor lab is used for studying the performance of helicopter rotors and propellers. Propulsion systems are studied by operating reciprocating engines, gas turbines, and rocket motors. Aircraft performance, stability and control principles are taught in the classroom using simulators and are demonstrated in flight with the department’s twin-engine aircraft. A satellite ground station allows for monitoring and communicating with the International Space Station and other satellites in orbit. A satellite environmental testing laboratory supports thermal, thermal-vacuum, and vibration tests for student-built small satellites.
In the 1/C year, aerospace engineering students immerse themselves in team-driven capstone projects to design, construct, and operate an aircraft, spacecraft, or similarly interdisciplinary system. Recent aeronautics projects involved remotely-piloted aircraft and rotorcraft designed to carry out a variety of missions. Astronautics projects involved small satellites and payloads launched into Earth orbit to test concepts for future space exploration. These capstone projects often entail collaboration with scientists and engineers at the Naval Research Laboratory, NASA, or other agencies. Capstone teams have also competed and placed well for several years in the NASA Student Launch competition, and provided specialized knowledge and skills on interdisciplinary projects such as the Formula SAE car.
A variety of summer internships with corporations such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin and government agencies such as NASA, SPAWAR, NRO, NRL, and NAVAIR have majors working with engineers and test pilots and personnel on the development and operation of air and space vehicles. Naval Academy aerospace engineering graduates find success in all service assignments. They regularly earn opportunities to enter graduate school, the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School, the Navy Space Cadre, and to fulfill critical roles in program offices improving and testing naval aviation platforms and missiles.
Considerations for those who might be interested in this major
Aerospace students like the combination of big-picture thinking and technical expertise that go into air and space vehicle design. They think critically, communicate clearly, work well in teams, and value a diversity of perspectives. They value how mathematics and computers provide us with a language and a means for formulating and solving real-world problems. They also recognize the value of aerospace engineering knowledge, technologies, and ways of thinking in many other industries such as automotive, wind power, and solar power. Aerospace majors are rewarded with a comprehensive, relevant education that serves them well in the fleet and in future career and education opportunities.